Here is a sample of comments from some of our members.
As founder members we were like an island – a way of Jewish people getting together locally. Gathering with other Jewish people in the area and spending a religious evening together made us feel like pioneers and we were determined to start a community in the area of Weybridge. Socialising and meeting other Jewish families in the area was a key motivation. The Reform Movement gave us assistance – Raymond Goldman z”l came rushing to Weybridge to help set up a Reform community in our area. We wanted to ensure through the development of a local Jewish community that our children would mix in a Jewish environment and we established a strong education programme when Tony Bayfield took Semicha and joined us permanently.
I suppose the core value was to unite as many local Jews into a communal and religious centre as possible, and thereby to spread Jewish education to our children and the comfort of our religion to as many elderly (and maturing) Jews as possible. Friendship was a great spur.
1966/7 was a unique time in the history of Jewish families who lived in and close to the Weybridge area. At the centre of the inspiration to set up a Jewish community in Weybridge were families from many Jewish backgrounds. How lucky we were to have the facility of our own synagogue – and the support of the Reform Movement. We were all passionate about our mission. From members who joined during those early years, we can count into the third and fourth generations in some families who are handing on their love for our community l’dor v’dor.
Our hope as founder members of NWSS was to continue to be part of the Reform Synagogue Movement, having then moved back to the South West London/Surrey area.
We were a young family and wanted to contribute to a congregation which would provide religious, educational, supportive and social opportunities to Jewish people in and around Surrey (and even further afield). We have seen the NWSS Community grow and develop into the guise of a very extensive and supportive family, fulfilling our original hopes.
Everyone was involved in some way, terrific enthusiasm and determination to build a community in Surrey to
encapsulate what we had previously in more Jewish areas. Informal and relaxed; “being there” was far more important than what you wore or how much Hebrew you knew or didn’t know. People’s social status or affluence mattered far less than it had in more Jewish areas. United by our desire to build a community, everyone was friendly, caring, thinking about others. Everyone participated in services, all reading much of the service together.
Being a long time member of this community has reinforced my core values of friendship, support, caring, safety, religious connection and being kind to everyone. Many of these are values taught to me by my parents and all of which I have tried to pass on to future generations in the hope that we can make a better world
for the future.
The Synagogue in Weybridge in the early seventies was warm, welcoming and vibrant. It appeared to cater for Jews from a variety of backgrounds who landed up in a non-Jewish corner of Surrey. Being so friendly it encouraged people to be active soon after joining. What was palpable was the warmth, the support and care for people of all ages. The Cheder was lively and the activities for all ages were both creative and fun. The fairly small community, with a number of the founders being survivors of the Nazis, had a determination and the enthusiasm to make Judaism alive, of importance and of value. Certainly, where it did succeed was in enrolling and satisfying members of all strands of Judaism and this tolerance is still one of our founding and ongoing values.
Joining NWSS on our arrival in Surrey gave us a haven and a feeling of belonging in a new environment. A place where our children did not have to defend their Judaism. A place where we have all made lifelong friends and where Jewish principles practised and learnt at home have been strengthened and flourished. A community which has supported us when we have needed it and where we continue to work together to support each other and go forward to celebrate the next 50 years.
We moved to the area in 2010 and joined NWSS a few months later, after our first child was born. Everybody
was extremely welcoming straight away and it wasn’t long before we had made some good friends through the baby and toddler group as it was known at the time. It always felt like a place that was open to people from many different places- and I mean both ‘places in the world’ as well as ‘places within the spectrum of Jewish belief or observance’. We are a community that is not afraid to adapt to the many changes that occur in the Jewish community and society at large.
About 2003, I had a re-awakening to my Jewish upbringing and looked for a synagogue I could join which would nurture these feelings. It was almost 8 years later that my good friend and I both heard about NWSS and decided to attend High Holy Day services to see if it was the right shul for us. What we found was a synagogue which was friendly and welcoming and not too strict or restrictive. One of the things that immediately appealed was a female rabbi and women sharing equally in all religious aspects of Jewish life. Coming from a much less inclusive upbringing I delighted in this aspect of NWSS life and have done so ever since.
Since arriving at NWSS in 2014, we have been welcomed with open arms. This is a hamishe community that tries to look out for community members, take care of everyone, and provide a Jewish community for anyone who wants one. Anyone who wants to contribute to the community is appreciated. And the community gives back too, by providing visiting opportunities to neighbourhood schools and establishing a remarkable and well run Holocaust education program.
When I think of NWSS, words that come to mind are ‘inclusive’, ‘warm’ and ‘relaxed’. It’s a welcoming environment for families and individuals who attend every week or once a year. Having grown up in the community and being a member since 1986, it’s incredibly special to know my children will be part of this community and will have the opportunity to learn and enjoy Judaism as part of their upbringing.
As a family with two young children, we appreciate the welcoming environment that greets us whenever we come to the synagogue. The children are already seeing the shul as a happy, safe space and they always enjoy coming. Our 9-year-old loves the Saturday services, listening to the music and seeing the Torah procession.. The Cheder is becoming another wonderful aspect of his week, where he is starting to learn about Judaism through a range of fun activities from a terrific teacher. When he comes, our youngest enjoys running around on Sunday mornings exploring the shul. As someone who grew up at NWSS, I so value the feeling of always being surrounded by people who care – whether through times of celebration, or at times of sadness.